Sports -- November 16, 2006

Published on Thu, Nov 16, 2006
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SPORTS
by Jack Kintner

New Sonics owner banks on Ridnour

“I think we grew a lot as a team on this road trip,” said Blaine native Luke Ridnour after his Seattle Sonics finished a five game sojourn in the east on Monday night in New Jersey. After dropping the first game to defending NBA champion Miami by three points, and loosing the next night to Orlando by one point on a fluke shot, they beat Charlotte, Atlanta in succession with Ridnour leading the way.

Against New Jersey Luke had a career night, leading all Sonics scorers with a personal best 32 points. This was despite the 6-1, 175 lb Ridnour playing against two of the league’s top guards in 6-6, 200 lb Vince Carter and the legendary 12-year veteran 6-4, 200 lb Jason Kidd.

With Luke running the offense the Sonics racked up 60 first-half points and led at one point by 28, leaving Nets coach Lawrence Frank mystified. Ridnour’s performance was evidence of his growing stature on a team that’s in a continuing transition that began with two coaching changes early last season.

Then owner Howard Schultz sold the team to investment banker Clay Bennett for $350 million. Bennett claims to want to keep the team in Seattle but has hinted broadly that to do this means a bigger and newer arena at the public’s expense. Should Seattle refuse, there’s a perfect facility all ready and waiting that just happens to be in Oklahoma City, where Bennett and his fellow investors live.

Ridnour brought back-to-back state championships to Blaine high school in 1999 and 2000 playing a very exciting brand of basketball under his dad, former basketball coach and still Blaine high school PE teacher and pole vaulting coach Rob Ridnour. He’s in the last year of his $4 million rookie contract, but having seen what he can do, the new owners awarded him an $18 million contract that keeps him in Sonic green and gold for another four years.

As the team continues to make off-court news, Ridnour just keeps working harder and harder and getting better. “I thank the Lord,” Ridnour said, “for keeping me in it and giving me the opportunity. I am just playing hard and trying to read pick-and-rolls differently. I am trying to get different looks out of it. It’s felt good so far.”

Slivers from the bench

If some friends told you that they stopped at six shoe stores on the way to the game in Everett last Friday night, you might be surprised to find out that the shoppers were all members of Blaine’s football team. Doesn’t sound like a guy thing, but it was.

It happened because early last week Murphy high school began to get cold feet, so to speak, about their field’s ability to drain away predicted rains for later in the week. After sticking a moist finger in the air and taking a look at the Old Farmer’s Almanac, Murphy head football coach Terry Ennis worked with retired Stanwood teacher Jim Piccolo to change the game venue to the dilapidated but supposedly weatherproof astroturf of Mariner high school’s Frank Goddard stadium. The turf is eight years old, and is being torn out in the spring to be replaced by good ol’ dirt.

The trouble was, neither Ennis nor Piccolo told Blaine that the switch in fields was definite until Thursday, the day before the game, even though the WIAA’s own rules require a week’s notice for such a change. That’s important because astroturf requires special cleats, something neither team had.
Murphy bought a complete set of cleats for its team on Tuesday of last week in time for a few practices but Blaine, when the football coaches finally learned of the change, had to buy their new shoes on their way south the night of the game, and try them out under game conditions. The bill for all these new shoes, which can only be used on astroturf, came to about $3,000, paid for by the coaching staff since a second set of shoes was not in the budget.

Murphy’s Coach Ennis was not available for comment, but another representative of Murphy’s athletic department who identified herself as Patti said that by Thursday night there were “six inches of water at the 50 yard line” and that on Friday they’d lost their power in that night’s windstorm.

Why Murphy didn’t want to play on a regular grass field, several of which are available in Everett, or how they knew on Tuesday that their field would be so out of shape by Friday wasn’t explained. My guess is that once you have those new shoes, you just gotta dance.